View Full Version : Restoring an early Kumalae

11-08-2015, 06:49 AM
Howdy folks,

I picked up a Jonah Kumalae that was sold through a music store in Tacoma at the turn of the century. It has many issues with back, front and side cracks. I've had many Kumalaes over the years and always had a local VA luthier fix the cracks with cleats and restore moisture content by suspending the uke in a garbage bag over some wet towels in the bottom of the bag with the bag closed up around the headstock. He's not in the business anymore.
Since the crack in the side is a long one it seems the top should be steamed off to access the top, back and side. Types of glue (wood or CA or both, cleats or no cleats are some questions I have. I was thinking I'd use a cappuccino maker to soften the hide glue to lift the top. This is something I've not done before so I can sure use the voice of experience. Many thanks!


11-08-2015, 08:05 AM
The biggest problem I had on the first one I restored was when I removed the back the sides sprung out of shape..and it was a nightmare trying to get the back on again in the same position...I did it in the end but it wasn't easy.

11-08-2015, 08:34 AM
Thanks, Tim....you do outstanding work on your sopranos! A question I have is should I humidify before attempting crack repair or after? The wood is very dry.

Pete Howlett
11-08-2015, 10:27 AM
If it is dry it has reached equilibrium. Work on it as it is.

Michael Smith
11-08-2015, 04:53 PM
I believe it's foolish and counter productive to try to super humidify an instrument like that. I have had people bring back instruments to me for a tuneup or to fix a buzz and they have put sponges in the case. When asked why they did that they answer "someone told me it was a good idea" That voids my warranty. No homemade humidifiers. To properly humidify a case you should use a two way humidifier such as the Planet Waves. When to arid it will add humidity to the case when too humid it will suck it out. i believe you will be best served to get the instrument in a 45% humidity environment. Keep it there for a week. Fix it. Then maintain that humidity in the case with a two way humidifier for the rest of the instruments life.

11-08-2015, 04:55 PM
Wow. When I saw that first picture I thought that isn't a crack: the entire side is separating. Also the "fix" that somebody tried (CA glue? Lard? Silly Putty?) isn't gonna fix that separation and looks terrible. You said somebody tried putting cleats in to fix the separation? Remember wood gonna do what wood gonna do and that piece of wood is splitting and will probably take the cleats with it. No amount of moisture is going to close a 1/8th inch crack like that. What I did notice is that the top and back are in pretty good shape and the thing probably still sounds pretty good (unless that crack is starting to lift the top or doing other nasty things). My advice is to ignore the crack and just see it as character and play away. Then again, I'm not a repair person so maybe somebody will have a miracle cure. What do you think Michael?

11-09-2015, 04:10 PM
You'll need to remove the back to complete the autopsy. Using the cappuccino maker to steam it would generate a lot of spurious steam and liquid.
I've used a single edge razor blade and judicious application of water drops at the attack area plus time at the beginning and around the blocks to allow the glue to soften. I can take days and don't force things.
If it isn't hide glue, a more drastic application of heat may be necessary. Hot blades and such.

hawaii 50
11-09-2015, 04:57 PM
you can send it to my friend Ki-lin.......he does these vitage ukes quite a bit....


mm stan
11-09-2015, 05:16 PM
The sides to me is toast, its a big job and may not be worth fixing. Well depends if this uke has sentimental Value to you.